Interests of Child Trump Religion in New Israeli Adoption Bill

Under the proposed legislation, parents seeking to adopt a non-Jewish child may no longer have to prove they are leading an observant lifestyle.

Parents adopting non-Jewish children in Israel may no longer have to prove an observant lifestyle as a condition for finalizing the adoption, under a bill approved on Sunday by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation. The bill would amend the Adoption Law.

The amendment would give the court approving the adoption the right to prefer “the best interests of the child” over religious considerations in the adoption process.

Under current law, Jewish parents who adopt a non-Jewish child are supposed to convert the child to Judaism through a special rabbinical court under the auspices of the rabbinate. The conversion becomes official only after a probation period set by the rabbinate, and the adoption does not become final until the conversion is completed.

The reason for this is a clause in the Adoption Law requiring an adopted child and his parents to belong to the same religion. In practice, belonging to the Jewish religion is interpreted by the rabbinate as proving that one adheres to a religious lifestyle.

The need to convert the child is thus used as a means of coercing the parents. Parents wishing to convert their children have been told over the years that they must keep kosher, observe Shabbat, affiliate with a synagogue and send the child to a religious educational framework.

Under the new bill, submitted by MK Adi Kol (Yesh Atid), parents will no longer be forced to make lifestyle changes if a court decides that the good of the child does not require a careful examination of the parents’ religious practices.

“Approval of this bill constitutes a meaningful statement by the state that the good of the child is the primary consideration in adoption,” said Kol. “It will remove an obstacle that has kept hundreds of children from finding a warm home in Israel.”

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